Bluefield College suspended its entire men's basketball team for kneeling during the pre-game national anthem on Thursday. The team had to forfeit the game due to a lack of players.
Bluefield college president David Olive said his decision "stemmed from [his] own awareness of how kneeling is perceived by some in our country."
"I did not think a number of our alumni, friends, and donors of the college would view the act of kneeling during the anthem in a positive way," Olive said.
"We wasn't trying to disrespect anybody," said Stanley Christian, a member of the team. "We wasn't trying to get all this attention, but we gotta' -- we stand up for what we believe in."
"Kneeling doesn't disrespect anybody. You kneel when somebody gets injured on the court or on the field. ... When you're praying to the Lord, you kneel. I don't see no disrespect in that."
Olive learned on February 1 that several players had been kneeling during the national anthem prior to several games. Olive told head coach Richard Morgan the players must stop, but the players knelt again on February 2.
"When the invasion of the Capitol happened, we was like, 'Wow, this is ridiculous,'" Christian said. "So, we're going to do it for us."
"There's no purpose to us kneeling without doing it to the national anthem because the national anthem tells us that we're united, and we're not united."
The word "united" does not appear in the lyrics of the Star-Spangled Banner.
"I have heard and I understand the perspective of our players as to why they desire to kneel during the National Anthem," Olive said. "I also know this form of protest immediately shuts down a number of individuals from listening to the intended message because of their perspective regarding the flag."
The team's suspension is over. It is unclear if the players plan to continue kneeling or protest in any other way in the future.
"No individual's sincere motives are inherently wrong," Olive said. "But I continue to contend that we will not get to where we want AND NEED to get as a country in addressing these racial issues without making honest attempts at creating pathways that bring people together for a common cause," Olive wrote.